When is ‘The Hunger Games’ not ‘The Hunger Games? When it’s ‘Divergent’ - based on Veronica Roth’s books. Sharing many similarities the film adaptation conjures feelings of déjà vu. That isn’t to say it’s bad though – just a generic American film aiming to become a money-spinning franchise. Many have been released over the years with few lasting the distance. ‘Divergent’ gamely tries its best to differentiate itself although the shadow of previous failed franchises looms large.
In a post-apocalyptic future, Chicago is struggling to survive. To maintain some sense of order people are placed in groups according to their abilities. Discovering she has a multitude of forbidden talents, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) discovers she doesn’t belong in any. Dubbed a ‘divergent’, she unearths a deadly plot spear-headed by totalitarian leader Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). With the help of fellow divergent Tobias (Theo James), Beatrice tries to save what’s left of her crumbling world.
An aim of a new franchise is to establish its mythology. ‘Divergent’ reasonably does this despite its formulaic predictability. Directed by Neil Burger, its successful moments are when it adheres to its central theme of discarding conformity. When it focusses on its many action sequences it loses some power as they aren’t anything we haven’t seen elsewhere. ‘Divergent’ never feels like its own movie – just a first chapter in a potentially enduring series.
Winslet has the most fun amongst the performers with her wickedly icy maiden. She out-shines her main stars who exhibit little chemistry. It is difficult being engaged in the story due to Woodley’s and James’ somewhat lifeless performances. Their listless rendition of the dialogue highlights the plot’s deficiencies and over-padding. They’re fine in the battle scenes which are well-staged even if they elicit miniscule tension.
‘Divergent’ is a case of style over substance. Whilst it has some depth, it fails to differentiate itself from similar film series. Its’ by-the-numbers nature may appeal to undemanding viewers while others are advised to find seek films that don’t ride on another’s coat-tails.
Rating out of 10: 5
Everyone loves food. We can’t live without it and have our own culinary vices. No wonder television cooking shows have been so enduringly popular. Leading to the rise of ‘celebrity chefs’ these shows display people’s foibles as they create a delicious dish. ‘Chef’ explores how someone uses social media to re-discover his gastronomic passion. Often as light as a fluffy soufflé, it’s a charming confection of redemption and tasty cuisine.
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a respected chef adored in the food world. Whilst having an artistic temperament, his abilities usually escape criticism. When a famed food critic dares to give a bad review, all bets are off. Beginning a war of words, Casper soon becomes disillusioned with his profession. Deciding to begin a mobile food business with ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and son Percy (Emjay Anthony), he is forced to confront his past and re-claim his desired golden future.
Written and directed by star Jon Favreau, ‘Chef’ marks a departure to his recent output. Known for directing big-budget blockbusters, ‘Chef’s’ smaller canvas seems more suited to his skills. He tells a simple tale of a person trapped by his own ego and finding a way to break free. Only then can he re-establish broken bonds and creative passions. Favreau provides a light touch as he spins these elements in a comedy/drama with some genuine laughs.
Whilst the narrative becomes occasionally repetitive, its charming affability shines through. Carl’s relationship with his son is its main focus with the performers bringing genuine believability to their tentative relationship. Adding to ‘Chef’s overall pleasantness is the cinematography which successfully conjures the flavour of each city the food truck passes. The characters they meet aid their understanding of each other and of the once enclosed existence they led.
‘Chef’ isn’t particularly memorable but it has much authenticity and soft humour. Apart from potentially making viewers hungry, the delights it offers may inspire some to dabble in the kitchen in search of fine food and delectable moments.
Rating out of 10: 6